*Note: In this article, “diet” refers to the sum of the food that you consume and NOT caloric restriction.
In the past few years I have tried many diets including low-fat and high-carb diets; the Paleo Diet; the Eden Diet; Cyclical Ketogenic diet; the MANS diet; and the GLAD diet. I really enjoy experimenting with food and it is a fun way to test what works best for my body. I know that my body is unique and that I may function well with certain foods (natural whole foods) and poorly with others (i.e. wheat and any sugary processed foods). It is important to realize this and figure out what works best for you. There is no perfect diet for everyone – experimentation is key to figuring it out for yourself.
Lets get started.
The Paleo Diet:
The Paleo Diet is an increasingly popular diet nowadays because people are experiencing miraculous health benefits. Some of the results I’ve heard about are incredible fat loss, better blood pressure, increased energy, better sleep, improved digestion, less acne, etc… The list goes on and on. Many folks even report having more stable moods. Seriously. This is life changing stuff.
**For more information, check out my recent interviews with health expert, author and speaker, Paul Jaminet (author of the Perfect Health Diet) and Abel James (the Fat Burning Man) who are enthusiastic supporters of this diet. I also wrote a recent article of how to eat healthy in an unhealthy environment (based on the paleo ideology).
In addition to the proverbial Paleo Diet name, you have probably heard other nicknames such as the Caveman diet or even the Hunter-Gatherer diet. They each follow the same basic guidelines, which Wikipedia lists as consisting mainly of fish, grass-fed pasture-raised meats, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots, and nuts – but excluding grains, legumes, dairy products, potatoes, refined salt, refined sugar, and processed oils.
It makes a lot of sense to me to eat this way by consuming what Mother Nature has gifted us and omitting the unnatural man-made items. As you can see, everything included in this diet is a natural whole food that you could literally find out in the wild, Caveman-style, and they can all be eaten without human modification.
The Eden Diet:
The Eden Diet rules are simple: As long as it comes from a plant and is not cooked or altered in any way, it is good to eat. While I’d say most would balk at the fact that meat and bread are not allowed (nuts are okay), my favorite unique quality of this diet is the fact that you must eat only one food item at a time and wait 20-30 minutes before eating the next food item. Don’t you love a good challenge?
The reasoning behind this is eloquently explained by Nathaniel Bronner, Jr. in how “the one food at a time is nature’s way because only man combines more than one type of food at a meal… all animals in nature eat ONE THING at a time, and the single food allows for greater and faster detoxifying than eating a combination of food [on a single plate].”
The truth? Even if you are a skeptic, I think you may be pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable it is to eat food plain and by itself if you are willing to give it a shot. Be aware that it may take a few days to mentally adjust to this diet, but with patience and deliberate habit adjustments your body will become accustomed to it.
I tried out this diet for a few weeks and it felt great. By eating one food at a time, I realized how each food affected my body and state of mind. It also allowed me to eat a certain food until my body was satisfied with the nutrients offered in that particular food. Then after 30 minutes I would move onto another food source and consume it until my body felt full. It is really an enjoyable process!
*Note: The Eden Diet will be nearly impossible to follow when dining at a restaurant. If you want to stay loyal to this diet, I wouldn’t recommend eating out. BUT – if you want to be more relaxed, go ahead and have a mixture of plant-based foods when you go out (such as a salad). It won’t kill you to ignore the “one food at a time” rule for a meal or two every week. Plus, I’d say it’s better to “cheat” a day or two and continue the diet, rather than give up altogether.
Cyclical Ketogenic Diet:
The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet is mainly for people who lift weights regularly and want to burn fat and stay as lean as possible while maintaining or gaining strength. This diet calls for a low amount of carbs for 6 days of the week and a high-carb intake for the remaining seventh day of the week.
Personally, out of all the diets I’ve tried, the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet works the best when it comes to fat loss. However, I must admit that the Paleo Diet works great for fat loss so for best results I recommend working a combination of the two… you can call it the Cyclical Ketogenic Paleo Diet. 🙂
The rationale behind the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet is to keep insulin levels as low for 6 days of the week by intaking less than 100g of carbs (I usually aim for about 80g/day for the 6 low-carb days) – and then on the seventh day, “carb up” to replenish your glycogen stores by eating mostly carbs, protein (meat and whey protein) and low fat intake. Putting aside one day to carb up is key to maintain muscle strength and normal energy levels.
When insulin levels are kept at a minimum on low carb days, the body will actually adapt and use predominately FAT and ketones rather than glycogen for energy. While on this diet, be sure to consume healthy fats such as meat fats (from healthy animals and fish), olive oil, coconut oil/milk, butter from grass-fed cows, cheese, nuts, avocado, and organic almond butter.
Let me note that, unless you are a professional bodybuilder preparing for a show, you do not need to worry about consuming a specific amount of carbs per day (i.e. exactly 80 grams on your low carb days). In fact, I don’t keep close track myself. I just make sure to keep the carbs low and that’s enough to get good results.
One thing to remember when starting the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet is the high likelihood of experiencing significant fatigue especially in the first week. This is normal and simply evidence that your body is adjusting—don’t worry, it will only be a matter of time until your energy levels return to normal – this means your body is transitioning into converting fat into energy instead of glycogen—In addition, you may notice that you will crave carbs (wheat, pasta, fruit, and other sugary foods) significantly on your low carb days. This is normal and make sure to not give in! This temporary irritability will pass and if you stick with it your body will adapt and get used to this high fat diet with time.
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